Line 3 updates: Enbridge, PUC field tough questions in court; “Operation River Crossing,” and more

  • PUC rejects nearly $100,000 in Line 3 reimbursements sought by the Beltrami County Sheriff
  • Northern Lights Task Force launches “Operation River Crossing” for Line 3
  • Enbridge faces tough questioning on the need for Line 3
  • U. of M. students press Regents to denounce and defund Line 3, seek public support
  • Stronger Together to Stop DAPL, Line 3 event Tuesday, March 30

PUC rejects Beltrami County Sheriffs’ request for $100,000 in Line 3-related reimbursements

We reported earlier this year that the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office had submitted invoices for nearly $200,000 in reimbursements from the Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account. That included money for training and responding to Line 3 resistance, as well as money for equipment such as batons, gas masks, and protective suits.

Healing Minnesota Stories asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) whether it had approved all the reimbursements or not, and if not, what specific expenses were denied, and why?

The PUC provided a general response without getting into the specifics.

As of 3/23/21, $182,682.87 in reimbursements have been approved for Beltrami County. $98,901.02 in reimbursements requests from Beltrami County have been denied because they requested reimbursements for equipment that was not consistent with the terms of the Permit.

Ryan Barlow, PUC General Counsel

The PUC’s Line 3 Route Permit required Enbridge to establish a “Public Safety Escrow Account” to reimburse state and local law enforcement for additional public safety costs they incurred due to Line 3’s construction. The permit also allowed reimbursements “to enhance existing human trafficking and drug enforcement agencies and social service tasks forces to address illegal drug and human trafficking in the area of construction.”

In response to an information request, the PUC provided a redacted grant request for $115,000 from Support Within Reach, a nonprofit organization serving victims of sexual violence in Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, and Itasca Counties as well as the outlining Tribal Communities: Red Lake Nation, White Earth nation, Leech lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

The PUC authorized the reimbursement. According to its application, Support Within Reach sought the money for cell phones, technology, and personnel costs “to offset the cost of the increase need of Victim Support Services … due to the projected increase of Victims of Sexual Violence as it relates to the Line 3 Replacement Project.”

State’s secret Northern Lights Task Force is running “Operation River Crossing”

The Northern Lights Task Force createdOperation River Crossing” to address Line 3 resistance, according to new reporting from The Intercept.

The Northern Lights Task Force is a secretive law enforcement effort that began as far back as 2018 to stockpile equipment and train police “in preparation for Line 3 pipeline protests across the state.”

The Line 3 pipeline will cross more than 200 water bodies. Enbridge will use “Horizontal Directional Drilling” to bore under 21 rivers, including twice under the Mississippi River. Water protectors have shown up at some of these water crossings and engaged in non-violent civil disobedience.

According to the Intercept, members of the Northern Lights Task Force gathered last September at Fort Ripley for a 12-hour training to practice responding to Line 3 resistance at water crossings.

Operation River Crossing was designed for law enforcement trainees from along the pipeline route to practice their response to a “civil unrest situation with threats to public safety including criminal damage to property, obstruction of transportation, assaults, threats to bystanders, and rioting.” [In the training] Officers would confront a range of people posing as pipeline opponents. Some would be quietly holding signs. “Others are blocking the roadway and access to the work area and refusing orders to disperse. A small group of protesters has started threatening pipeline workers and law enforcement officers and lobbing balloons filled with urine and deer repellent.”

The Intercept

At a minimum, the training would seem to create a level of fear of water protectors in the minds of law enforcement, not good. Click on the link above for the full story.

In MN Court of Appeals, Enbridge, PUC faces stiff questioning on the need for Line 3

In a Minnesota Court of Appeals hearing Tuesday, a three-judge panel posed tough questions to Enbridge and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) about the need to build a new Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Line 3’s currently 50 percent complete. A decision isn’t expected until June. However, even if Enbridge completes most construction before the ruling, an unfavorable decision would prevent it from operating the pipeline.

This is one of three pending legal cases trying to overturn Line 3’s permits. The plaintiffs are the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Indigenous Nations, and Indigenous and environmental groups.

Enbridge was not supposed to get Line 3 permits if it couldn’t prove that the future demand for oil justified building a new pipeline.

Enbridge justified a new pipeline by arguing that oil producers wanted more pipeline capacity to move their product. Line 3 opponents argued that oil producers were a measure of oil supply, but didn’t reflect global demand.

The PUC sided with Enbridge and granted the permits.

Both Presiding Judge Lucinda Jesson and Judge Peter M. Reyes Jr. had similar questions about Enbridge’s lack of information on global oil demand.

Jesson said: “I really struggle with seeing where the forecast for demand is in 15 years,” MPR reported. “I expected to see not just supply projections … or pipeline capacity, but actually the demand.”

The Minnesota Department Commerce has been making this argument since 2017. In a press release at the time, Commerce wrote:

Oil market analysis indicates that Enbridge has not established a need for the proposed project; the pipeline would primarily benefit areas outside Minnesota; and serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits. …

MN Dept. of Commerce

And that was before COVID-19 hit and further eroded oil demand.

The PUC Commissioners — who are not technical experts — repeatedly rejected Commerce’s analysis.

U. of M. students pressing Regents to denounce, defund Enbridge Line 3, seek public support

University of Minnesota students and student groups are asking Minnesota residents’s help to pressure the University’s Board of Regents “to 1) publicly denounce the building of Line 3 oil pipeline, 2) begin the process of Fossil Fuel divestment, and 3) make the University’s investments public so that MN taxpayers and UMN students can see where their money goes.”

Click here to read the letter and sign on.

The letter begins:

As a land-grant institution, the University of Minnesota has a duty to the land on which it resides. Because of this, it is necessary that the actions of the University reflect the respect and stewardship the University has for this land, and further honors the treaties that put us in this place. The University of Minnesota is a leader of social change for the state, and should be a shining example of what it means to be a Minnesotan and an American citizen. We believe, however, the actions of the University have largely neglected their responsibility to do so. 

Stronger Together to Stop Line 3 and DAPL: Tuesday, March 30

Join the movement to stop Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Canadian Corporation Enbridge’s Line 3 on a Zoom call Tuesday, March 30, starting at 6:30 p.m. (CST)

The event is hosted by MN350 and the Sierra Club North Star Chpater. To get the Zoom link and to RSVP, click here.

Presenters will include movement leaders Winona LaDuke from Honor the Earth and Great-Grandmother Mary Lyons.

Indigenous youth from both pipeline movements are heading by caravan to DC to demand President Biden build back fossil free (https://buildbackfossilfree.org/) by stopping these climate destroying projects. They will speak to us en route to share their history of Indigenous People standing up for their traditions of caring for the Land, Water, and Animals. There will be time for a Q&A, too.

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